Two warring factions have been searching for a powerful Cube across the galaxy, but to no avail. Planet Earth has seen no part of these conflicts - until now, when in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar an American army base is going about its business only to be interrupted by a mystery aircraft appearing on radar. Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and his outfit are on the base when the aircraft, a helicopter supposedly lost in Afghanistan, lands at the airfield, surrounded by gun-toting soldiers. To their shock, the craft undergoes an amazing transformation and runs rampage, impervious to their bullets and missiles. Lennox barely escapes with his life, but this is simply the beginning...
Possibly the most expensive toy commercial made up to that point, Transformers even proudly announced in its opening titles that it was a co-production with manufacturer Hasbro. Back in the eighties, kids started to be sold their toys not only in the ad breaks, but through the actual programmes as well, and cartoon Transformers was one of the most popular of the lot. So what better idea than to take such marketing genius to the big screen as well: which they did with Transformers: The Movie, a feature length animation. The power of nostalgia being what it is, it was a matter of time before a live action version was created.
For some reason this Transformers won far more respect among moviegoers than say, the film adaptation of Bratz, although they were essentially made along the same principles. Was it because these were boys' toys and its militaristic atmosphere commanded more deferrence among the fans? Man, this is serious, the film seems to tell us, people could die! Nobody we know, and none of the main characters, and if anyone does die they're a robot anyway, but this is serious despite that. And a lot of audiences bought into this, with its violence tempered by comedy that would not be out of place on a daytime sitcom.
Our hero is not a Transformer, he's Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) a would-be high school social climber out to get his own car from his dad. From his first scene he grates, his would-be witticisms falling flat, his avarice extending to plugging his online auctioneering during a class speech. Yes, it's not only Hasbro who enjoy blaring their products and services at the viewer in this film, blockbusters are a lucrative business after all. Anyway, Sam's new car is a robot in disguise and his great-grandfather an Antarctic explorer who discovered the key to the conflict way back when, and soon Sam finds himself caught up in an intergalactic war. Between about ten robots. That we see, at any rate.
Of course, the effects are top notch, but the Transformers are such a riot of twisting metal that they're hard to take in; they're also supporting characters in their own advertisment. Too much of the screen time is given over to the resistable Sam and his family and friends, regaling us with "colourful" humour which includes masturbation jokes and toned down Porky's-level social embarrassment situations. Guaranteed to test the patience, amongst all this noise the humans don't have much more personality than the machines, with Megan Fox as a pin-up out of Sam's league who tags along with him anyway (she's a mechanic too, which has no bearing whatsoever on the plot), and Duhamel's wafer thin army hero vanishing from the mind whenever he's not onscreen. There's even offensively crass token black comic relief (Anthony Anderson, be ashamed). If it's the action you're watching this for, you won't be disappointed - with the last twenty minutes, that is. Making money is all Transformers are about, and it shows. Music by Steve Jablonsky.